I grew up in a modest home, so trust me; I know the importance of money. I’ll be the first to tell you to get your retirement fund in order, or invest in real estate, or ditch the Starbucks lattes for home-brewed coffee to save a few bucks. But I’ll also be the first to tell you that money in it of itself will not make you happy, successful, or satisfied. In fact, it can do just the opposite if you let it. And I will continue to remind people that we must not judge one’s character based on the size of their pocket book, because really, one’s wealth does not determine who they are.
In the last few years I’ve penned many articles about how the average person can build and sustain wealth. I’ve discussed various strategies about ways working class people can buy a second home, invest in the stock market, or put away more for their retirement years. These articles are perhaps my most widely read pieces, because they touch a nerve for people – and it’s because most of us need more money.
But the key to sustaining and building wealth is understanding what is possible, what is probable, and what is immediately doable. For example, it does no good to quit your job and throw your life savings into a new business if you don’t have a solid plan, a solid support staff, and a solid monetary reserve. And it does no good to only focus on the here and now and tell yourself that you’ll “worry about retirement when it gets here.” And it makes no sense to eat out every night when you could be saving more by cooking your own meals. See, the point of most of my financial advice is to take reasonable, sound, and strategic action when it comes to your pocketbook. What does this mean exactly? Well, you should know by now that a penny saved is a penny earned. And in the real world, ten bucks every day turns into a year’s contribution to your IRA.
You should know by now to always be looking for a bigger, better job – your next big break (whether you decide to go for it or you are forced to go for it). You should know by now that real estate could be the best investment of your life, that shopping with coupons is nothing to hang your head about, and that your child’s college fund should be just that – a fund that starts when they are children!
All that being said, living from paycheck to paycheck can be an overwhelming experience. Many parents struggle to put food on the table, work multiple jobs to afford expensive health care, and wish they could go to school or change jobs if the risk weren’t so great. I know how important it is to have money because I’ve seen both sides of the coin.
But just as importantly – in fact even more so – I know that wealth does not improve character. It may reveal one’s true self or it may not, but I know for sure that the financially rich are no more satisfied, successful, or better than those of us fighting for every last possession we own in our too-small, rented condo in the rough neighborhood, near the failing schools.
I’m tired of turning on the television, scanning the radio dial, and surfing the Internet only to see those with wealth receiving attention. I’m tired of the media showering praise and affection on people simply because of their wealth. And mostly, I’m tired of the everyday Joe and Jane believing they are somehow less worthy because they aren’t a hotel heiress or country star’s daughter.
Character comes from the inside, from one’s heart and soul. A bundle of cash isn’t going to change that. It is up to each of us to be the best we can be, to strive for our potential, and to reach for things beyond our grasp. But in our efforts to make money, in our efforts to ease the lives of our children and grandchildren, we must always remember that money does not cure all. It certainly makes things easier, it certainly can improve our lot in life, and it is certainly something we must try to attain, but I promise you that it will not create success, satisfaction, or happiness on its own, no matter what the media tells us. Because that, my friends, comes from the inside.